Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Let's Just Say No to "Sensitivity Readers" and Other Forms of Censorship

© Can Stock Photo / alexandrum

Lately I've been hearing about a disturbing new trend, particularly in traditional publishing; using so-called, "sensitivity readers," whose job is to censor the author's work by ferreting out so-called "trigger" words in their manuscripts.

I live in the United States, and our constitution includes a wonderful thing called, The First Amendment. The First Amendment guarantees our right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, including artistic expression. There are, of course, some exceptions, such as slander and libel, but those exceptions are few and far between. And while The First Amendment guarantees our right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, it was never intended to protect anyone from being offended by someone else's free speech.

What is and isn't, "offensive," is oftentimes subjective. For example, a vegan may find a scene in my novel in which two of my characters enjoy a burger together offensive. A chef, however, may read the very same scene and be inspired to create a gourmet burger for two. But because the vegan took offense, should he or she then be given the right to censor my work? 

So-called, "sensitivity readers," pose a genuine threat to a writer's ability to express him or herself freely. I'm a woman who writes romance novels, therefore I have plenty of male characters in my books, even though I've never been a man. I also write in the third person narrative. This means some of my chapters will be written from a male character's point of view. I'm simply trying to tell a good story, but to the so-called, "sensitivity expert," I could be "stereotyping" men. And because the "sensitivity expert" has determined that I'm stereotyping men, I'm no longer allowed to write anything from a male point of view because it could possibly "trigger" a reader. In other words, my right to freely express myself as an artist has now been significantly infringed upon, as "trigger" is the new politically correct word for offend. Therefore, I'm to be censored.

I guess maybe I'm just too old school. If I'm reading a book, and for some reason I find one of the characters offensive, I simply stop reading the book. I don't go off on a tangent because I was offended. I don't demand the publisher pull the book from the shelves because I was offended. And I most certainly don't go on a hate campaign against the author, or demand the book be banned, just because I was offended. As said, I'll simply toss the book aside and read something else. How's that for a concept?

"Sensitivity" is the new, politically correct word for CENSORSHIP, and censorship goes against everything I believe in and everything The First Amendment was created for. So guess what? I will continue to write the stories I wish to write, and if the "sensitivity thought police" don't like it then they can go straight to Hell. 


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